Medical Terminology: 71 Terms Medical Terms To Learn

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated April 29, 2022 | Published June 1, 2021

Updated April 29, 2022

Published June 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Jargon refers to special expressions or words individualize within a specific profession or group use to communicate. It's important to become familiar with the jargon of the industry you hope to work in to be successful and communicate effectively. In this article, we further discuss why it's important to know medical terminology and define different types of medical terms to learn.

Why is it important to know medical terminology?

Learning medical terminology is important to build a successful career as a medical professional. It will allow you to communicate intelligently and effectively with other professionals in your field. Learning medical terms will also help you learn more about your patients and enable you to educate your patients about their conditions successfully.

Medical terms each contain three parts that form a more complex term. Learning these base terms may help you further understand medical terminology. Medical terms contain a:

  • Prefix: A prefix is at the beginning of the the medical term, and it identifies a subdivision or part of the central meaning of the term.

  • Root wood: A root word is in the middle of the medical term, and it identifies the central meaning of the term.

  • Suffix: A suffice is at the end of the medical term, and it modifies the central meaning of the word based on what or who is interacting with the body part or what's happening to it.

Related: 32 Career Paths in the Medical Field To Explore

71 medical terms to learn

Here are some important medical terminology to be familiar with as you prepare for your career as a medical professional:

17 medical abbreviations and acronyms

Here are common medical abbreviations and acronyms and what they mean:

  • BMI: Body mass index (BMI) is a measurement of a person's body fat based on their height and weight.

  • BP: Blood pressure (BP) measures the pressure of circulating against blood vessels' walls and results from how the circulator systems pumps blood through the circulatory system.

  • CPR: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), also called mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, is a life-saving technique to restart a heart that stops beating.

  • DNR: Do not resuscitate (DNR) refers to a medical order to not perform CPR or other life-saving techniques.

  • ED/ER: Emergency department (ED) or emergency room (ER) refers to a common unit for medical care.

  • EKG: An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a way to monitor a person's heart and test it for problems.

  • HR: Heart rate (HR) refers to the speed of a heartbeat, and it's typically expressed as heartbeats per minute.

  • HDL-C: High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) refers to healthy or good cholesterol levels.

  • LDL-C: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) refers to a person's unhealthy or bad cholesterol levels.

  • NICU: The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is the specialized unit that provides care for premature infants.

  • OD: Once daily (OD) relates to medication instructions to take a medication once a day.

  • OR: The operation room (OR) is the place where medical professionals perform surgeries.

  • Psych: Psych refers to the psychiatric ward or psychiatry in general, referring to the unit dedicated to diagnosing, treating and preventing medical disorders.

  • PRN: Pro re nata (PRN) is a Latin term used to describe taking a medication as needed.

  • PT: Physical therapy (PT) is a treatment method that helps patients recover from an injury or treatment that uses movement.

  • Rx: A prescription (Rx) is often for medication, but may refer to other prescribed or recommended treatments.

  • Stat: A medical professional may use this term when they need something immediately.

Related: What You Need To Know About a Career as a NICU Nurse

19 common medical terms

Here are some common general medical terms:

  • Abrasion: An abrasion refers to a scape or cut that is generally not serious.

  • Abscess: An abscess is fluid-filled packet that's tender and often forms in tissue as a result of an infection.

  • Acute: An acute condition may be severe, but it often begins abruptly and resolves quickly.

  • Benign: A benign tumor is a non-cancerous tumor.

  • Biopsy: A medical professional may collect a biopsy, or a small tissue same, to use for testing.

  • Chronic: A chronic condition is a recurring, persistent condition that may be severe.

  • Contusion: A contusion, also called a bruise, is blood under the skin caused by trauma.

  • Critical: A critical patient may be unconscious and have vital signs outside of the normal range.

  • Edema: Edema refers to puffiness or swelling called by excess fluid building up in the body's tissues.

  • Epidermis: The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin.

  • Fracture: A fracture may occur as a broken bone or cartilage.

  • Hypertension: Hypertension, or HBP, refers to high blood pressure.

  • Hypotension: Hypotension refers to low blood pressure.

  • Inpatient: An inpatient is a patient who requires admittance to the hospital for treatment and observation.

  • Intravenous: An intravenous fluid or medication is one that is delivered via vein.

  • Malignant: A malignant tumor is a cancerous tumor.

  • Observation: Observation refers to a temporary status in which patients receive care for a specific amount of time and a physician decides to admit or discharge them.

  • Outpatient: An outpatient is a patient who receives care, doesn't require observation or hospital admittance and may leave after treatment.

  • Tumor: A tumor is a mass or swelling of cells, and it may or may not relate to cancer.

Related: Acute Care vs. Ambulatory Care: Similarities and Differences

19 medical prefixes and suffixes

Here are some common prefixes and suffixes you may encounter with medical terms:

  • A- or an-: The prefixes a- or an- may indicate a lack of or without something.

  • Dys-: The prefix dys- may refer to something that is painful, difficult or abnormal.

  • -ectomy: The suffix -ectomy refers to the surgical removal of a body part.

  • -emia:: The suffix -emia refers to conditions related to blood.

  • -eursym: The suffix -eurysm refers to something that is widening or expanding.

  • Hyper-: The prefix hyper- refers to things that are above, beyond or excessive compared to a normal amount.

  • Hyp/o-: The prefixes hyp- or hypo- refer to things that are below, beneath or deficient compared to a normal amount.

  • -itis: The suffix -itis may indicate the inflammation of a body part.

  • -lysis: The suffix -lysis refers to the breaking down, decomposition or destruction of a body part.

  • -ology: The suffix -ology refers to the study of a particular subject.

  • -paresis: The suffix -paresis refers to something that is weakening or failing.

  • -partum: The suffix -partum refers to health concerns associated with birth.

  • -pathy: The suffix -pathy refers to a particular disease or a disease process.

  • Poly-: The prefix poly- indicates many or multiple of something.

  • -plasty: The suffix -plasty refers to the surgical repair of a particular body part.

  • Pseudo-: The prefix pseudo- refers to something deceptive or false, and medical professionals often use it to refer to something's appearance.

  • Retro-: The prefix retro- refers to something backward or behind something.

  • -scopy: The suffix -scopy refers to an examination.

  • -tomy: The suffix -tomy refers to making an incision or cutting into something.

Related: 20 Types of Surgeons

16 medical root words

Here are some common medical root words you may encounter:

  • Carcin/o: Carcin or carcino refer to health concerns related to cancer.

  • Cardi/o: Cardi or cardio refer to health concerns related to the heart.

  • Cyto: Cyto refers to health concerns pertaining to the cells.

  • Derm/a/o: Derm, derma and dermo refer to health concerns associated with the skin.

  • Encephal/o: Encelphal or encephalo refer to health concerns pertaining to the brain.

  • My/o: My or myo refer to health concerns related to muscles.

  • Gastr/o: Gastr or gastro refer to health concerns associated with the abdomen and stomach.

  • Histio: Histio refers to health concerns related to tissues.

  • Hemat/o: Hemat or hemato refer to heal concerns pertaining to blood.

  • Hepati: Hepati refers to health concerns associated with the liver.

  • Nephro: Nephro refers to health concerns related to the kidney.

  • Neuro: Neuro refers to health concerns pertaining to nerves.

  • Onco: Onco referse to health concerns related to tumors and masses.

  • Oste/o: Oste or osteo refer to health concerns related to bones.

  • Pulmon/o: Pulmon or pulmono refer to health concerns related to lungs.

  • Stasis: Stasis refers to the flow of a bodily fluid slowing or stopping entirely.

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